Matt Hancock admits Covid-19 UK death figures could include those who died by being hit by a bus

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Matt Hancock admits Covid-19 UK death figures could include those who died by being hit by a bus

The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, is ordering an urgent review of the daily Covid-19 death statistics produced by Public Health England, after it emerged that they may include recovered former sufferers who could have died of other causes.

The oddity was revealed in a paper by Yoon K Loke and Carl Heneghan of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, titled “Why no one can ever recover from Covid-19 in England – a statistical anomaly”.

Their analysis suggests that PHE cross-checks the latest notifications of deaths against a database of positive test results – so that anyone who has ever tested positive is recorded in the Covid-19 death statistics.

“It seems that PHE regularly looks for people on the NHS database who have ever tested positive, and simply checks to see if they are still alive or not. PHE does not appear to consider how long ago the Covid test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community,” the authors said.

They said this was the reason why PHE figures “vary substantially from day to day”. They also said about 80,000 recovered patients in the community were continuing to be monitored by PHE for the daily death statistics, even though many are elderly and may die of something else.

A Department of Health and Social Care source said: “You could have been tested positive in February, have no symptoms, then be hit by a bus in July and you’d be recorded as a Covid death.”

 

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